The year 2020 was definitely one of the biggest turning points of this millennium. Recent global events have underlined our unpreparedness in the face of crisis and unpredictable events. The global pandemic threw everyone off balance, halted the economy and life as we once knew it seized to exist. A major shift in perspective occurred and everyone’s eyes were aimed at healthcare. The new virus created new necessities and the need to be and stay safe, and while we can’t predict the future, we can most definitely choose and plan our health insurance. So, what are the lessons we learned from 2020 and how will those lessons reflect on our decision making for health insurance in 2021? Here’s what you need to consider before choosing.
Unforeseen medical expenses can seriously put a dent in your yearly budget if your insurance plan doesn’t anticipate all the possible events. With unhealthy lifestyles, surging medical costs and now Covid-19 on the loose, careful and thorough analysis is required in order to choose the best health insurance. It can be complex, but knowing the lingo and just a few basics can help tremendously in decision making, before you compare plans.
- The 4 metal categories – Four categories of health insurance plans exist and are divided into Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. These categories are based on cost splits between your plan and your healthcare and have nothing to do with the quality of the care you’re receiving. For example, the Bronze category implies lowest monthly costs, but Platinum means lowest care costs.
- Total health care costs – When choosing a plan, two things must be considered. Monthly costs and out-of-pocket costs. Every month a bill is shipped to your address with the monthly fees of your insurance company (a premium), despite receiving health care that month. When you do receive healthcare, you must pay out-of-pocket costs, including a deductible.
- Network and plan types – HMO, POS, PPO and EPO are the types of health plans. Some of them include all the possible services of any doctor in the system while some limit your coverage to only certain doctors or health facilities. Some might even charge more for using services outside of their network.
Enrollment season already began, so choosing or switching up your health plan for 2021 should be one of your top priorities right now. The first thing to do is research the topic thoroughly in order to attain the required information. Once you do, you will be aware of all the possibilities out there and choose easily later on, because one size doesn’t fit all. Take your time, compare the benefits and the costs of each given plan, get your insurance lingo in check and after collecting all the notes, you should be able to weigh in on your decision.
After acquiring enough information and getting to know the possibilities, the next step should revolve around anticipation of yearly costs. This is where the lessons we’ve learned this year come into play. If you fear contracting the virus, you can use that to adjust your current healthcare plan accordingly. Also, if you’re planning a significant event that involves expensive health care such as childbirth or surgery you have to include all of those possibilities and compare out-of-pocket costs and monthly expenses in premiums. Be sure to include any unpredictable illness that might occur out of the blue, just to be safe if the worst should happen.
Another thing this year has taught us is the convenience of telehealth and virtualized visits and appointments. Social distancing, restrictive curfews and if not Covid related then work responsibilities, busy schedules etc., have made it a bit difficult to receive healthcare. If this is the case, you should consider signing up for a 24/7 virtual doctor’s appointments and thus anticipate all the time changes and delays that may occur. The advantages are numerous; fewer costs, easier access to a specialist and the main thing – all you need is a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop. Virtual health care implies that you can talk to a doctor about any common health related issue with ease and all from the convenience of your own home.
An interesting thing many health insurance users overlook is that many health plans include financial stimulus that rewards its users for taking healthier actions, such as quitting smoking, completing a health related survey or exercising. Some of them even offer wellness programs and gym memberships with no additional costs, depending on how much you’re willing to spend. Specialty benefits should also be included in your health insurance plan and they cover vision, dental, hearing, prescription drug coverage or critical illness insurance. Be sure to include this in your health insurance plan, since some of the premiums don’t involve some of the listed benefits.
To conclude, a lot of research has to be done in order to obtain all the necessary information about potential health insurance programs and given the current situation with the consequences of the pandemic still unfolding, the plan must be adjusted to your needs and all the potential unforeseen situations. Approach choosing a plan as any other issue you may be facing – be thorough, specific, detail-oriented, but also, be sure to contact a specialist if you find it hard to untangle all the industry lingo and technicalities. After these basics, it should be easier to pick and choose your personal health insurance program. Welcome 2021 prepared, safe and completely covered!